Correlates of Adolescent Ambiguity in Defining their Experience of Sexual Victimization in Two Large-Scale Croatian Samples

  • Nicole L. Cohen
  • Aleksandar Štulhofer


Adolescents are at increased risk for sexual victimization compared to other age groups and sexual abuse in adolescence is associated with negative health outcomes in adulthood. Sexual experiences are often conceptualized as either consensual or coercive so little is known about adolescents who are unsure whether their negative experience constitutes sexual abuse. The present study used two samples (n = 2235, n = 1253) of Croatian adolescents to explore the psychosocial characteristics and sexualized behaviors associated with difficulty in defining negative sexual experiences. Multivariate findings suggested that, when compared to non-victimized peers, adolescents who reported sexual victimization were characterized by a higher probability of sexualized behaviors. This was not true when comparing individuals who reported an ambiguous sexual experience to non-victimized peers. However, both groups differed from non-victimized participants in reporting hostile/aggressive family environment. More research on the mechanisms underlying adolescents’ difficulty in labeling sexual victimization is needed for sexual abuse education and prevention.


Adolescents Sexual abuse Abuse labeling Child sexual victimization 



The work was funded by the Croatian Science Foundation, [grant no. 9221].

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Disclosure of Interest

All authors report no financial or personal relationships that may bias this work.

Ethical Standards and Informed Consent

All procedures of the present study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all participants who were included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KansasKansasUSA
  2. 2.Department Of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social SciencesUniversity of ZagrebZagrebCroatia

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